Prunes vs psyllium for constipation

Did you know, “Treatment of chronic constipation remains challenging, with 50% of patients dissatisfied with current therapy?”

Researchers at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, in Iowa City, compared the effects of dried plums (prunes) and psyllium in patients with chronic constipation.

First, the details.

  • 40 constipated adults received each treatment in random order.
    • Dried plums 50 grams twice each day, fiber = 6 grams/day
    • Psyllium 11 grams twice each day, fiber = 6 grams/day
  • Each treatment lasted 3 weeks and was separated by a 1-week washout period.
  • Participants maintained a daily symptom and stool diary.
  • Assessments included number of complete spontaneous bowel movements per week, global relief of constipation, stool consistency, straining, tolerability, and taste.
  • The patients were not aware of the treatment given — single blind.

And, the results.

  • The number of complete spontaneous bowel movements per week and stool consistency scores improved significantly with dried plums vs psyllium.
  • Straining and global constipation symptoms did not differ significantly between treatments.
  • Dried plums and psyllium were rated as equally palatable and both were safe and well tolerated.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “Dried plums are safe, palatable and more effective than psyllium for the treatment of mild to moderate constipation, and should be considered as a first line therapy.”

There seems to be a disconnect between the study population — “patients with chronic constipation” — and the authors’ conclusions for “treatment of mild to moderate constipation.”

It’s also not clear from the abstract how the patients were recruited and how constipation was defined by the researchers.

Chronic constipation is generally determined to be a symptom-based disorder based that is present for at least 3 months in the last year. It is characterized by unsatisfactory infrequent stools, difficult stool passage, or both.

Full disclosure, the study was supported by the California Dried Plum Board.

3/8/11 20:14 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.